The number of inflammatory and threatening statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over recent months has been escalating at a meteoric rate, and due to their hollow nature, they have become a source of ridicule across the globe. Hardly a day passes without a new threatening statement made by Erdogan towards Greece, the EU or countries in the Middle East. The tone of Erdogan’s latest wave of threats reveals a state of despair as a result of recent events that have brought his megalomaniacal ambitions of restoring the so-called “glories” of the former Ottoman Empire to reality, however. Among these was the recent signing of the historic Egyptian-Greek naval demarcation agreement that set the maritime and economic borders of the two countries. The agreement has been ratified by both the Egyptian and Greek parliaments despite the objections of the Turkish regime. France has also entered the fray as Erdogan has become a menace in the Eastern Mediterranean region and has threatened French allies as well as the French state in its efforts to carry out the war on terrorism in Africa, notably in Libya. French President Emmanuel Macron stated earlier this week that enforcing red lines was the only language that the Turkish regime understands in his explanation of his country’s involvement in the region. Macron said he had set out red lines to Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean that were backed by military force. France has been a strong backer of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt in their feud with the Turkish regime. Macron has backed Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s position on Libya and has shown his understanding of Egypt’s concerns regarding the Turkish intervention in that country. France has also deployed several warships as well as a number of fighter jets to Cyprus in support of the Republic of Cyprus against Turkish threats. Greece, France, Italy and Cyprus have also conducted naval drills in the region as a message to Erdogan that his ambitions will be met with military force if necessary. However, these actions have not deterred the Turkish president and his Islamist regime from issuing more threats. One of Erdogan’s lieutenants, Metin Külünk, has called for the establishment of a “Greater Turkey” that would include parts of Greece, half of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Armenia and parts of Syria and Iraq. In doing so, Külünk, a member of Erdogan’s Islamist AKP Party, has simply expressed the expansionist ambitions of the Turkish regime. Fortunately, of course, Turkey is capable neither militarily nor economically of carrying out even a fraction of such neo-Ottoman threats or ambitions. Why attempt to provoke the animosity of almost every country in the region with such unbalanced statements? The answer lies in the domestic politics of Turkey. The AKP has long rallied Islamist and neo-Ottoman Turks who still believe in the expansionist ambitions of Erdogan. It is this deluded and radical constituency that Erdogan and the AKP are counting on to stay in power and to quell the protests of traditional republicans and secularists in Turkey. However, the signs of Erdogan and his regime being able to maintain this sort of politics are dim, and with every statement he and his followers make more and more countries are rallying against the Turkish state and what were once simple diplomatic spats have been approaching fully-fledged war. Turkey’s disregard of the sovereignty of other nations will have severe consequences, and Erdogan’s attempt to play the NATO card, relying on Turkey’s membership of the alliance, is no longer working since he has made just as many enemies inside NATO as he has among his regional neighbours. Should matters continue as they have thus far, an unprecedented war or at least a military skirmish between members of the NATO alliance could occur at any moment. The usually indecisive EU is mulling major economic and political sanctions against Turkey as a result of Erdogan’s military and political aggression in the region. Should these sanctions be approved, they will be a major blow against the already bleeding Turkish economy, which has witnessed the freefall of the Turkish lira against the US dollar and other currencies along with contractions in both GDP and international ratings. According to the latest Finch Ratings report on the Turkish economy, it has seen a “depletion of foreign-exchange reserves, weak monetary policy credibility, negative real interest rates and a sizeable current account deficit partly fuelled by a strong credit stimulus… exacerbating external financing risks.” These and other factors have led the international credit-ratings agency to give Turkey the dismal rating of BB-. To counter such economic and political pressures, which have been merged with a wave of domestic disapproval owing to his impetuous policies, Erdogan’s domestic media machine has gone into overdrive to inflate his supposed achievements, such as the unethical conversion of the Hagia Sophia Museum in Istanbul into a mosque so that he can proclaim himself a pious Muslim leader. Lacking any tangible economic achievements in recent years, Erdogan has been attempting to distract the Turkish population with the announcement of the discovery of a major natural gas field in the Black Sea. The announcement was made using the usual theatrical methods of Erdogan’s speeches. However, experts have other opinions about the discovery, and opposition analysts such as Abdullah Bozkurt have questioned the reality of the new discovery. Erdogan has proclaimed such discoveries before, they point out, the last time being in 2019, and they have given rise to no real outcomes or developments. The Russian news outlet Russia Today has questioned the credibility of the recent Turkish discovery, for example, said to hold 320 billion cubic metres of natural gas, which is modest compared to Egypt’s Al-Zohr gas field in the Mediterranean, for example. Russian experts have said that the alleged Turkish field lies 2,100 metres underwater and would require a hefty investment to exploit efficiently. The Russian media has concluded that the alleged discovery would be hard to exploit economically, given the steep costs of extraction and the growing supply glut in the market. As the noose tightens around the neck of the Turkish president, Erdogan’s reckless behaviour is becoming more aggressive and unpredictable. Time is not on his side, and with every waking hour the Turkish economy is bleeding more. More and more of Erdogan’s opponents are rallying their forces to curb his megalomaniacal and neo-Ottoman ambitions. Egypt, France and Greece have the military means to stop any Turkish aggression should Erdogan resort to this as his final card. The Turkish regime will face overwhelming odds should it attempt military action, and neither its membership of NATO nor its recent attempts to appease the Russians will be able to assist it in an effective way.
The founding fathers of the US built the country on the bases of freedom and justice. The majority of US presidents respected these values and promoted them internationally. This is what made the US a leading country respected the world over. We, in the Middle East, fondly remember the noble actions of president Dwight Eisenhower during the tripartite aggression of England, France and Israel in 1956 when they invaded Egypt and sent their troops to occupy Sinai, a very dear part of Egypt. Eisenhower intervened, giving the three countries an ultimatum to withdraw their troops from Egypt. They left. This is what the world expects from the US to support justice and condemn aggressions and occupation of other countries. The Middle East believes the US should restore its status. I am referring here to two international issues that threaten world peace and security. The first is the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile. The dam will deprive River Nile downstream countries Egypt and Sudan, that are friends of the US, of their share of Nile waters and endanger the lives of millions of people who shall suffer from thirst and hunger. The Nile is about the only source of water for Egyptians. Ethiopia is water-rich, often referred to as the Fountain of Africa. A young diplomat, Marwa Salem, conducted a study about water in Africa. Salem said 14 water basins flow through Ethiopia, including the Nile Basin. Its total water surface is about 122 BCM, nearly 90 BCM of which – coming from national rivers – are under Ethiopia s control. Moreover, there are about 20 BCM of groundwater near the surface, which are renewable due to the heavy rainfall, which averages 1250 mm per year. Consequently, Ethiopia belongs in the category of “water abundance.” In the 1960s, the US agricultural Department conducted an extensive study on water in Ethiopia. The four-year research identified 33 locations in Ethiopia for building a dam. Nevertheless, the Ethiopian government chose the most controversial of them to build dam. The US, realising the critical GERD crisis, has sponsored tripartite negotiations to reach a deal that safeguards the rights of the three countries. When an agreement was already reached in Washington, Ethiopia didn t show up to sign it, showing disrespect to the negotiating parties including the US that brokered the talks. Ethiopia should have honoured its word, if not for the $8 billion the US grants Ethiopia each year, then at least for the sake of respecting the diplomatic codes and proper behaviour. We are all well aware that Ethiopia s aggressive attitude is a flagrant violation of all international agreements and the Helsinki principles that safeguard the rights of all countries sharing international rivers and ensures their good relations. The US Treasury has recently withheld $200 million from its aid to Ethiopia, sending a message to Addis Ababa it will not get away with this extreme violation of international laws. The whole world expects the US to continue its efforts to support the rights of millions of Egyptians and Sudanese people who cannot survive without water. The second issue is Turkish President Recep Tayyip s Erdogan s invasion of Libya and his establishment of military bases west of the Egyptian borders. It is well known that he is a strong supporter of terrorist organisations, providing them with funds, arms and mercenaries. He even recruits Turkish Kurds to fight in Libya under the pretext of reviving the Ottoman empire. He flagrantly announced that he intends to occupy Austria, Rome and even the Vatican itself as well. The dictator had the audacity to turn the Aya Sofia church and museum into a mosque where the preacher gave his sermon holding a sword, claiming that this is the way to spread Islam and restore the Ottoman glory -- although the teachings of Islam call for peace and coexistence of all peoples of all religions. Erdogan also attacked some oil wells in the Mediterranean that belong to Greece and Cypress. His actions constitute a threat to peace and security, not only in the Middle East but in Europe and the world at large. Dear US friends of Egypt, the US is now preparing for a major political event, namely the Congress and presidential elections. Get in touch with your candidates, the senators, the governors, and the mayors. Demand they listen to your requests. Ask your family, friends and colleagues to create a strong public opinion. Tell them the US should restore its status as a major power that supports world peace, security, and human rights. Encourage them to support justice.
A bystander video recorded shortly before the fatal shooting of two people in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shows the accused shooter, Kyle Rittenhouse, with an assault-style rifle, milling among a group of other armed civilians claiming to be standing guard against people gathered to protest the police shooting, two days earlier, of Jacob S. Blake.At 17, Rittenhouse was charged with violating Wisconsin law, which bars those under 18 from being armed with any deadly weapon. Police officers are seen on the video passing in an armored vehicle, offering Rittenhouse and the group of armed civilians bottles of water, and broadcasting over a loudspeaker "We appreciate you guys. We really do. Without asking, they could not know that Rittenhouse was underage, but they certainly knew that he and the others were in violation of the curfew the officers were legally bound to enforce. But, having chosen to side with vigilantes, they gave out water bottles and encouraging words rather than an order to disperse under threat of arrest. Rittenhouse, along with many militia members, profess a special fellowship for the police and we also know that some police reciprocate that sentiment. It s true that police are facing especially tough challenges in a time of pandemic, street protests and a spike in gun violence in major cities. But competent police leaders do not welcome any alliance with armed, unsworn, untrained vigilantes. In addition to the obvious immediate danger these people pose, they make the job of the police in the community exponentially more difficult. The "appreciation" for the Kenosha curfew breakers is evidence of the risks facing police when they give the appearance of being overtly involved in politics or a particular political viewpoint. They can t afford any perception that they re leaning toward vigilantes in the performance of their duties. Any association with them casts the police in a partisan light that sacrifices the trust of the community.On that trust, the effectiveness of a police force depends. It can be equally dangerous for police to show any support to a particular party or politician when police are acting in a professional capacity. No law in America requires you to disclose whom you voted for or intend to vote for. Like the right to vote itself, we take the secret ballot for granted. But the secrecy is, in fact, very valuable. It preempts social, local, employer, or peer pressure from swaying or intimidating voters. For police officers and many other public servants, the right not to disclose your electoral choice is, I believe, not just a right but an obligation. At the very least, it is a best practice. During the four decades in which I was in law enforcement, I proudly referred to myself as a "law and order lawman," but I never told anyone outside of family and a few friends what candidates I voted for. Nobody ordered me to keep my preferences secret. I just knew, in my gut, that keeping my politics to myself was the way to ensure that my actions as a police officer were not only apolitical but would be perceived as apolitical. In every law enforcement position I have held, my oath was invariably to the Constitution, and I also swore to serve and protect the people of the community that hired me. My oath mentioned no sheriff, no chief, no mayor, no governor, no organization, no political party, and certainly no president of the United States. Every sworn law enforcement in our nation takes essentially the same oath. On the street, a cop cannot afford to be a Democrat, Republican, Independent, Libertarian, or anything other than a member of the community who is pledged, trained, and qualified to serve and protect the public safety courageously and impartially within the law.To perform their sworn mission, police officers are entrusted with very consequential legal authority, including the authority to use deadly force. But the power behind that authority comes not from any law but from the public. It is the members of the community who grant their officers the legitimacy to perform their mission. Without this grant of legitimacy, the police, for all their legal authority, are essentially powerless. A congressional representative serves terms of two years, a senator six, a president four. Partisans all, they win or lose elections, they come, and they go. A police officer s career has no fixed term, but that officer s effectiveness in the community depends exclusively on the legitimacy the people grant him or her. Demonstrate partisan bias, and that legitimacy will dissolve -- perhaps in an instant. Ask a competent police officer "Which side are you on?" and the answer you will hear is not the Republican side or the Democratic side but your side. Of course, police have political opinions, and, these days, they are often strong opinions. But everyone in law enforcement, from leadership down to street level, needs to discipline themselves to act on those opinions only at the polls and off-duty. Citizens ask if the police are capable of demonstrating such impartiality, especially when some police unions endorse a high-profile candidate, as the president of the City of New York Police Benevolent Association, Patrick J. Lynch, recently did in the case of Donald Trump.My response to officers and their leadership is this: The people cannot read your mind or peer into your soul, but they can hear what you say and see -- as well as feel -- what you do. What is more, they share your words and your acts on social media. Let these be just, measured, and resolutely apolitical. For the police must serve just one side, the American community -- gloriously diverse as it is in race, religion, appearance, lifestyle, opinion, and political affiliation.
The impact of external shocks on economies is often contained by sound domestic policy frameworks, well-targeted policy responses, and public opinion engagement to ensure a durable economic recovery. Bearing in mind the current global crisis mostly examines the resilience of indebted countries and companies as well. Each individual country has its own political, economic and social circumstances and thus, policy responses would differ to react appropriately to the external shocks. In addition, Domestic policy responses must be complementary to each other and well-sequenced, referring to three main pillars; the specific circumstances of each country, and to what extent the country is depending on the external side in financing, and to what extent the external shocks could lead to domestic financial crisis, considering the assurance of debt sustainability. Worth noting, the nature and magnitude of the external shocks caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic will also expand to impact the most resilient economies, and the current wave of debts may lead to a sequence of financial crises in case of debt mismanagement and lack of well-targeted policy responses not only on the domestic level, but also on the international level. Accordingly, International cooperation and solidarity become more essential than ever, accompanied by sound domestic macroeconomic policies. Among the outstanding solidarity models of international financial community is the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which was launched in 1996 by the IMF and World Bank. This initiative aims to ensure that that no poor country faces unmanageable debt burden. Hence, the international financial community and governments sought hand-in-hand to promote sustainable levels of the external debt burdens of the most heavily indebted poor countries, providing faster, deeper, and broader debt relief; accommodating debt relief with poverty reduction, and social policies. To-date debt reduction packages under the HIPC Initiative have been approved for 36 countries, 30 of them in Africa, providing 76 Billion USD in debt-service relief over time. On another note, the IMF provides relief on debt services under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT). The CCRT enables the IMF to deliver grants to eligible low-income countries member to cover their IMF debt service obligations amid catastrophic natural disasters and during major global public health emergencies. Relief on debt services provided by the international financial community is considered a fast-acting measure and short-term remedy, which would help to provide factual benefits to vulnerable individuals and households in hardly-hit poor countries, particularly countries that don’t have enough financial resources to cushion the negative socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 and to manage high levels of debts burden. Accordingly, the World Bank Group and IMF, G20 economies and others are allowing the world’s poorest countries to suspend repayment of debt services to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of millions of the most vulnerable people. Recently, the IMF approved relief on debt service under CCRT for 28 member countries that are poorest and most vulnerable hardly hit during by the current COVID-19 pandemic. This would enable the disbursement of grants for repayment of total debt service falling due to the IMF over the next six months, with potential extensions. Noteworthy, relief on debt service would help to boost financial resources that are much needed to be directed toward vital emergency health needs, instead of debt services repayments and to meet balance of payments needs for containment and recovery. To-date the total debt reliefs for 28 countries are mounted 251.24 million USD. However, the international solidarity towards providing debt reliefs is not enough to avoid an anticipated string of financial crises ahead. Domestic well-coordinated and swift structural reforms are much needed than ever, to boost the resilience of financial sector and to strengthen fiscal governance; ensuring debt sustainability, which means that government, is capable of servicing its debt at any point in time. The global COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted both the fiscal space and the financial performance of highly indebted emerging and developing economies, exacerbating debt distress. In spite of heavily debts, these economies could cushion such severity and weather the current global crisis through following; sound debt management and good governance, effective regulation and monitoring of financial sector, and robust monetary, exchange rate, and fiscal policy frameworks. Note worthy, high public debt may limit fiscal space to undertake additional broaden fiscal measures. Accordingly, policymakers in highly indebted countries need to revise and update their debt management strategies and systems, assessing the crisis and financing needs. Debt management requires adoption of prudential governance principles. These principles include assessment of debt structure, borrowing and repayment policies in terms of their combined effect on potential for insolvency and costs of such crisis. Noting that it is essential to consider that Loan portfolio should balance between welfare gains from each activity with the costs generated by that activity s contribution to default risk; managing financial institutions and policies to avoidance of financial crisis. The success of Egypt’s economic and structural reforms provided a unique model for other emerging and developing countries. However, political instabilities and conflicts in the region hindered the reforms in Africa and Arab regions, exacerbating debt distress in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic. On the back of the economic and structural reforms launched in Egypt, the Egyptian economy becomes more able to weather the negative consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Noteworthy, the public debt has markedly reduced from nearly 103.2 % of GDP in 2016/17 to around 84 % of GDP in 2018/19. In the mean time the Egyptian government targeted to keep primary surplus of 2 % of GDP and put public debt back on a downward path, reducing further the public debt with projection of slight increase by end of 2020 due to the negative impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Noteworthy, Egypt is considered to be one of the very limited countries that succeeded in reducing the debt ratio to the GDP during the 2019/2020; this sound achievement was mainly due to the success of economic reform program and the decisive precautionary measures taken to contain the repercussions of the COVID-19. Whilst, the financial control measures and real growth rates contributed to the continuation of the downward trend in debt rates as a percentage of gross domestic products (GDP).Efforts are continued to reduce risks to debt sustainability through lengthening debt maturities and strengthening revenue mobilization over the medium term to lower gross financing needs and to create an adequate fiscal space for priority spending. AG Graph Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF) WEO, 2019 and 2020 Furthermore, well-coordinated structural reforms need to be continued to strengthen good governance and to improve transparency and accountability in public finances and Stated-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) as well as other public entities. In addition, the government keeps monitoring financial vulnerabilities to further safeguard financial stability. In that context, it is essential to keep maintaining debt sustainability through considering the following main paths in parallel. Promoting sound debt management and debt transparency are critical to ensure that new debt could be repaid at any point in a time, borrowing costs are manageable and well-balanced with gains, and fiscal risks are contained. In addition to bolstering good governance which is crucial to rationalise public spending and fiscal stimulus, ensuring the fiscal stimulus packages are targeted the main needs and purposes through assessing economic response and productivity. Also, putting strict bankruptcy frameworks is needed to prevent debt overhangs from affecting adversely investments over the long-term. Consolidating the effectiveness of regulations and monitoring of the financial sector would help to give proactive insights of potential risks. Noting that well-strengthened financial sector would effectively contribute to mobilizing domestic savings, which is considered a more stable source of financing. Well-coordinated and robust monetary, exchange rate, and fiscal policy frameworks contribute to bolstering the resilience of economy amidst the external shocks. The reforms in recent years have provided Egypt with a high-degree of flexibility to weather this shock. Accordingly, the current precautionary measures of monetary easing and fiscal expansion would slightly impact fiscal and debt sustainability. The Egyptian economy recovery gets underway, supported by continued structure reforms and rules of rational fiscal stimulus. In Conclusion, maintaining debt sustainability is a must, considering the urgency to balance between maintaining sustainable debt levels and the need to meet the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and to boost inclusive growth through increasing investments in infrastructure and human capital, avoiding debt distress through capturing potential risks from contingent liabilities and any further natural disasters. Last but not least, keep on strengthening the capacity of debt management is a cornerstone for better debt sustainability; bearing in mind the assurance of borrowing in the interest of maintaining sustainable debt levels aligning with sustainable development goals (SDGs).
In the great urban debate between the co-owner of the Stand Up NY comedy club on New York City s Upper West Side and its greatest stand-up act, the comedian wins the debate hands down. Jerry Seinfeld makes the point: he won t ever leave NYC. And because he won t, we won t.(Full disclosure: My daughter and I once watched transfixed as Jerry Seinfeld gave an impromptu and utterly hilarious performance in front of a couple dozen customers at the fish counter at Zabar s, around the corner from the comedy club. No one watching that Sunday morning several years ago could ever dream of leaving NYC, since the hope springs eternal for a repeat performance.) NYC will survive the Covid-19 pandemic, as it did the 1918-19 flu epidemic, 9/11, and other calamities. And as Seinfeld rightly notes, so too will other great cities such as Rome, which after all first became known as the Eternal City (Roma Aeterna) in the 1st century BC. The world today is 56% urbanized and the UN expects the continued rise of urbanization to 68% of the global population living in cities by 2050. I think it will be even higher.There are three reasons. First, from a historical perspective, Covid-19 will soon subside. Maybe in a year, maybe three, but it won t be with us forever. New York City has suppressed the transmission to around 260 cases per day, down from an average daily high of more than 5,000 in mid-April. With 8.3 million people in NYC, that s around 34 cases per million per day, compared with more than 600 cases per million per day in the spring. We can and should slash that tenfold in the coming weeks, as in several Asia-Pacific countries. Sure, there will be other pandemics, as there have been in the past. If we are more careful and better prepared, as we should have been, they won t overturn daily life as this one has done.Second, cities are more productive, except for farms. The single biggest driver of urbanization in human history is therefore the productivity of farming. When one farmer feeds one household, every worker must be a farmer. When one farmer feeds around 100 households, as in the US, fewer than 2% are farmers and the rest do other things, almost all of which are best done in cities. Third, people really do like cities. The services are far better, the entertainment is far more varied (Seinfeld and all), and the violent crime rates in US cities have plummeted, though with a spike this year. Urban health in the US and elsewhere improved dramatically a century ago with the introduction of public health measures such as mass vaccinations, sewage, and clean-water systems that slashed the effluence and disease associated with crowding. Yes, Covid-19 transmitted earlier and faster in densely settled places like NYC, but alas, the virus is also spreading dangerously in rural areas too, which are also burdened by vulnerable older populations with pre-existing health conditions (such as high blood pressure and obesity) and living farther from hospitals. In claiming that NYC is finished, James Altucher argues that the digital-age work-from-anywhere technologies will gut the office towers and central cities, with cascading damage for the life of the city. I think the situation is somewhat more prosaic: rents will go down, property prices will go down, commercial space will be converted. NYC is the place where meatpacking plants became high-end art galleries, garment factories became chic hotels, and a former railway spur became the much-beloved High Line outdoor walkway, residential and shopping area. Repurposing is what cities do.No doubt, Altucher raises some pertinent questions. NYC, like every part of the world, will be revolutionized by the digital age. A large part of the workforce will work from home at least part of the week. Hundreds of thousands of commuters will be delighted to dispense with commutes to midtown offices that can take one or two hours each way. They will come in perhaps 1 or 2 days a week, and at staggered schedules. We won t have banks at every street corner (thank God) because consumer banking will be online. Thousands of retail businesses will not return because e-commerce truly is more convenient and efficient. For the coming year the number of empty store fronts will be staggering, indeed depressing. But then commercial and residential rents will fall. They are already down perhaps 5-10% and there is more to come. Mortgage rates are at historic lows, with 30-year mortgages below 3%. The unaffordable prices that recently were driving young people out of NYC will become the bargain prices that drive them back in. Stodgy midtown offices will be reconverted into new startups. The City will become younger, not older, occupied by a young generation that mixes digital, brick-and-mortar, startup, residential, and leisure.Be certain: there is a reckoning ahead, not between urban and rural, where urban will prevail, but between the superrich and the rest. The shocking reality of Covid-19 is that the superrich have gotten fantastically richer, unimaginably so, during the pandemic. The soaring stock market alongside Great Depression unemployment is just what it seems: the most dramatic redistribution of income from the poor to the rich in US history. With tech stocks soaring, for example, Jeffrey Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk have seen their combined net worth rise by $197 billion since the start of the year while, tens of millions of Americans have been thrown into financial desperation and hunger. NYC has more billionaires than any other city in the world -- 111 in 2019. They like NYC, like the rest of us. They depend on NYC for their vast fortunes. And many have enjoyed astounding windfalls of wealth this year as frontline workers around them have died or faced eviction. The true challenge for New York City is not technology or even the pandemic. It is basic decency. A city survives and thrives as a living breathing social organism, one that acts together for the common good. The billionaires must be the ones paying higher taxes to keep the City s schools, hospitals, public transport and social services running as NYC picks itself up from the crisis.
Libya remains a platform for regional conflicts in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Several actors have been involved with the Libyan file in recent weeks, mainly Egypt, Turkey, the US, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus and the UAE. Many diplomatic efforts were made, and the interests of both Egypt and the United States managed to spur a ceasefire between the warring parties in Libya. But due to contrasts within the Libyan interior, the ceasefire pact did not last more than 48 hours. It was broken Sunday night, 23 August. This means that the matter is not one related to international efforts seeking coexistence within the Libyan interior; it is rather a matter of a complicated situation between the different parties in Libya. The conflicts within the Libyan interior are the major source of political turbulence in the scene. The fact that neither party acknowledges the legitimacy of the other means opportunities for a political settlement are very thin. Regional powers try to exert influence within the file, but the domestic equations are what govern. Several attempts were made to end the contentious state of conflict. However, regardless of what the others might say, Egypt has exercised a role within the Libyan conflict to serve the protection of its national security interests. It is very difficult to discuss a political settlement in Libya at the current moment. There is a domestic difference, and regional competition over influence in Libya. Both Egypt and Turkey remain in restraint regarding direct military intervention. Few are the times where such political situations re-occur. But this proves it is a matter of a local context that regional and domestic powers do not fully understand. The ceasefire was broken not only because legitimacy is not equally recognised, but also because of the lack of a connection between the East and the West within dual international communications. Neither partner wants to defy the international community. They attempt to prove that they are pro political consensus, although their actions prove otherwise. There is a cost to be paid within international relations that Libyan political elites are afraid of, because they know they are culpable. In the end, there is a limit to the role that the international community can play in light of equally warring parties on a political level. This leads to another important question regarding any political settlement in the Libyan interior. According to the givens so far, both parties have legitimacy — the House of Representatives in Tobruk, and the State Council in Tripoli. Both political bodies enjoy international legitimacy, and manage to contain a set of local, regional and international allies to uphold the various interests they have. There is no political consensus or military supremacy that makes one party more powerful than the other. In fact, there is a balance of power between the warring parties. So how can Libya surpass this current situation of political confrontation and lack of coordination? The answer lies in the idea of building new domestic political associations, backed and supported by regional ones. As Turkey attempts to split the Arab world apart over the Libyan file, Egypt, the UAE and Saudi Arabia must work out a framework of regional cooperation inside Libya, to ensure that the interests involved within the file are being promoted by regional actors who are concerned with the Libyan conflict. The vulnerability of the ceasefire is mainly due to the total absence of political solutions while actors and parties supporting one side or the other move to raise the military capacities of that side. The international community needs to take into consideration the context of the Libyan conflict before it starts to theorise about it. Otherwise, we will be back to square one, trying to find the basis for a political agreement. Past attempts by the UN and other international organisations were all a failure on the level of implementation. Mainly because of a lack of practical study of the Libyan interior. There is a need to renew the mechanism involving neighbouring countries, and a dire need for Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia to reach a mutual understanding concerning the Libya file. International alliances and regional ones regarding Libya are still not effective on the ground, mainly because the interest of each actor is what determines its patterns of action. Egypt remains the most concerned actor within the scene, and it has to further develop the efficiency of the role it practises in the context of the conflict between East and West Libya.
left for Israel and the Gulf on Sunday not with the two-state solution on his mind; but with a focus on what you might call the 22-state solution: how best to use Arab state relationships with Israel to support President Donald Trump s reelection campaign.Not that Pompeo or Jared Kushner, who will reportedly follow him to the region after the Republican National Convention, believe there s any chance of getting a majority of the Arab League s 22 members to join the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in its recent normalization of ties with Israel. But the pair plans on getting some. Enamored of Arab money, arms sales and enlisting Arab states in their pro-Israeli and anti-Iranian agenda, the Trump administration s real play was never about the Palestinians or two states. It was always about the Arab nations. And authoritarian Arab regimes eager to please an autocrat-friendly president have been only too happy to follow along with Donald Trump. The only question is how many more will do so. In my first meeting with Kushner in 2017, it was clear where the administration was headed. Kushner stressed then that one of the key principles of his approach to the Middle East peace process was developing what he called "strategic relationships" with Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The objective was not to enlist the Arab states to leverage Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians. Instead, it was designed to demonstrate that the Arab world would leave the latter behind if they didn t agree to make concessions and sign up to more reasonable terms with Israel. Over the next several years, Kushner made good on his word. Instead of developing a close personal relationship with any Palestinian interlocutor, he invested heavily in courting the two Arab leaders central to his strategy: Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince, and Mohammed bin Zayed, the most powerful leader in the UAE.The attention and focus on the Gulf states was stunningly willful. The President s first trip abroad began in Saudi Arabia and Israel. The administration defended the disastrous Saudi and Emirati campaign in Yemen (the Emiratis have since withdrawn their forces) and backed it with arms sales. And it has turned a blind eye to their repressive regimes, especially providing cover for MBS s alleged role in the murder and dismemberment of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In essence, as we ve seen recently with the likely sale of F-35 advanced fighter aircraft to the UAE, what the Arab states wanted, they more or less got. Before we turn Kushner and company into Metternich-like diplomatic geniuses, it s important to point out that much of the foundation for closer Arab state-Israeli ties had been laid well before Trump came to Washington. A rising Iran, concern over Sunni jihadi terror, exhaustion with the seemingly endless Palestinian cause and discreet security and intelligence ties with the Israelis created a strong basis for regional cooperation. Israel and the Gulf states in particular, already greatly concerned about the Obama administration s nuclear deal with Iran and its seeming willingness to support the overthrow of Arab autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia in the wake of the Arab spring, were only too happy to welcome the anti-Iranian, pro-autocratic tendencies of the new President. There is little doubt that the Pompeo and possible Kushner trip eventually will produce additional agreements on normalization with Israel. Pompeo will knock on doors in Bahrain and Sudan and visit the UAE to consolidate the agreement already made there. The former two states are the most likely candidates for normalization. Bahrain warmly welcomed the Israel-UAE deal; already hosted Israelis in a US-sponsored economic conference last year and has been in talks with Israel for months. Sudan is more complex politically in the aftermath of the removal of former leader Omar al-Bashir; the Sudanese Foreign Ministry spokesman was fired earlier this month after making comments about warming ties with Israel.But in February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with a key member of Sudan s Sovereign Council and Sudan badly wants to be off the US list of state sponsors of terrorism so an agreement is likely -- it s just a question of time. In coming months, Oman and Morocco, with longstanding contacts with Israel, will probably follow suit. The big prize is Saudi Arabia. If Riyadh, as custodian of the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, lends its hardline Islamic legitimacy and authority to normalizing relations with Israel, the tactical shift underway might well become strategic, leading to a transformation in Arab attitudes toward Israel, breaking apart the Arab consensus in support of Palestinians and freeing each Arab state to decide on its own what to do about relations with Israel. In the wake of the Israel-UAE deal, the Saudis issued a mild statement that appeared to connect any normalization to a sovereign Palestinian state with a capital in Jerusalem. And King Salman is more pro-Palestinian than MBS. The Saudis will also use the UAE as a sort of canary in the coal mine to see how their deal with Israel fares. Saudi Arabia is due to host the G-20 in November. If MBS were looking for a way to improve his image in the US after his role in the Khashoggi killing, normalizing ties with Israel might be one way to do it. It should be obvious that the timing of this normalization effort is tied to the political interests of the key players. Netanyahu, under enormous pressure at home from a resurgence of Covid-19, economic recession, an annexation he promised but couldn t deliver and an upcoming corruption trial, gets a huge win. The UAE may get F-35s out of the deal and positions itself -- through this pro-Israeli act --as a key Washington player regardless of whether Trump or Biden wins in November.As for a Trump administration desperate to showcase competency and any piece of good news, the image of Arab states making peace with Israel couldn t hurt. If there were any doubt about the politics here, consider Pompeo s plan to address the Republican National Convention from Jerusalem while on a diplomatic mission to promote the national interests of the United States. That tethers him and his office to the domestic political interests of the President s reelection. Unprecedented to be sure. But for a secretary of state -- the most politicized in modern American history and arguably the worst -- who appears to have presidential ambitions of his own, it may well be just another day at the office.
At times, while watching the pandemic edition of the Republican National Convention, I had to remind myself this wasn t a "Saturday Night Live" parody of the Party of Trump. But it easily could have been. The first night of the RNC amounted to a series of skits on the themes Trump has previewed for us repeatedly, alternating between lying about who President Donald Trump is and what he has done -- and lying about who Joe Biden is and what he would do. It started with the convention s opening film. As images of the Statue of Liberty and Trump in action flashed across the screen, the narrator -- Jon Voight -- described Trump as "a man who works tirelessly for you," and a party that is "embracing the undeniable greatness of diversity." Cue the laugh track. If "SNL" producers had been directing, they would probably have added video of any of Trump s over 200 golf outings, and perhaps him telling non-White Democratic members of Congress to go back where they came from.We were told that Trump has been a "decisive leader" on the pandemic, in contrast to Democrats. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming, with plenty of material available to illustrate Trump s bungling of the federal government response. Just to highlight the point, the producers put Trump in the White House talking to "regular people," without masks, without sufficient social distancing, with Trump again mentioning "hydroxy" and giving other incorrect coronavirus information. Convention speakers offered variations on these deceptive themes, with an occasional dog whistle along the way. The youthful conservative activist Charlie Kirk proclaimed Trump the "bodyguard of Western civilization." And the wealthy St. Louis couple that made you-can t-even-believe-this news around the world, brandishing weapons outside their mansion last June when Black Lives Matters protesters were outside, claimed that Biden and Democrats "want to abolish suburbs altogether" by bringing low-income housing to neighborhoods. They further warned about "Marxist revolutionaries" taking over Congress. It was all really scary -- or funny -- depending on your perspective. Biden, we heard over and over again, plans to defund and dismantle the police, something he has repeatedly denied; and that he is a radical socialist, a ludicrous claim that his decades in office prove false. A Cuban émigré noted gravely that Fidel Castro was once asked if he was a communist. Castro, too, said no. We know how that turned out. So, grain of salt on Biden s centrist claims; he may be a secret commie.Montana businesswoman Tanya Weinreis praised Trump for saving her business and expressed deep compassion for small businesses facing "the terrifying prospect of Joe Biden." The entire slate of speakers was determined to make Biden look chillingly frightening and Trump reassuringly competent. Perhaps after Biden s recent performance, they ve changed tack on painting him as addled -- and instead decided to cast him as a weak leader controlled by the "radical socialists," a label that came up again and again. The charge that the Democrats are all becoming socialist clashes with the reality that primary voters chose the centrist Biden, who then picked a centrist running mate in Kamala Harris. Surely, they ll fine tune their Trojan Horse argument. Trump s "promises made, promises kept" motto came up a few times, making me think back to his promise to abolish Obamacare and replace it with "something terrific." Waiting, still. Then there s the wall Mexico will pay for, and all the other unkept promises. But never mind any of those. There was a lot of drama -- even tears. But nothing came close to the performance of Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.s girlfriend, former Fox News host and a Trump campaign fundraiser. In a very loud, melodramatic delivery that was vaguely reminiscent of the over-the-top rhetorical style of South American caudillos, Guilfoyle gave us an urgent heads up about the great perils ahead. Biden and the Democrats, she warned, "want to destroy this country ... they want to steal your liberty, your freedom. They want to control what you see and think, and believe, so they can control how you live." She beseeched us, "Don t let them kill future generations."When her effusive display ended, CNN s Wolf Blitzer declared coolly, "That was forceful." Jake Tapper responded, "Forceful is one word for it." If "SNL" were scripting the RNC, they could simply lift some of these speeches and performances verbatim. And then, to wrap it up, they could show the party officials trying to come up with a platform, explaining what they stand for, and what Republicans believe and hope to accomplish. In the comedy routine, Republican stalwarts would find that everything they thought they believed has been opposed or muddled by Trump. So, someone would suggest that instead of bothering with a platform, they should simply issue a document stating that whatever Trump wants, that s what they believe. And if it were a television sketch, that would be hilarious. But, unfortunately, for America today, that s actually reality.
The orders were clear. On the first day of the Trump administration, I joined 24 other lawyers in the White House, where we were charged with helping fulfill President Donald Trump s promises to the American people. The President wanted to unleash American ingenuity and stimulate economic growth by rolling back burdensome and, in some cases, crippling regulations that were allowed to run amok during the Obama administration. "The prior administration piled up more than 600 major new regulations — a cruel and punishing regulatory burden," Trump said last month. Forbes found in 2016 that the Federal Register contained 3,853 rules and regulations, 629 of which were flagged by agencies as having notable effects on small businesses. Our team went to work in the Office of White House Counsel immediately, and on January 30, 2017 -- only 10 days after President Trump took office -- he issued Executive Order 13771, which requires agencies to offset the cost of any new significant regulation with at least two deregulatory actions. The administration launched a massive regulatory relief campaign and for every new federal regulation, seven have been cut, according to the administration -- exceeding the target laid out in Executive Order 13771 by a wide margin. These cuts translate to an increase in real incomes by upwards of $3,100 per American household after 5 to 10 years, according to estimates from the Council of Economic Advisers. Under Trump, the Federal Register, the daily depository of rules and regulations, has been nearly 25,000 pages shorter than what it was under Obama.Former White House Counsel Don McGahn, who was instrumental in this deregulation effort, understood as well as anyone that, at its core, this was an issue of the core principles articulated so clearly in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution -- free speech, due process and individual liberty. "The greatest threat to the rule of law in our modern society is the ever-expanding regulatory state," McGahn said in 2017. "And the most effective bulwark against that threat is a strong judiciary." McGahn understood that regulation and the courts are inextricably linked. The vast expansion of regulatory authority, both in scope and deference, began decades ago when Congress ceded authority to federal agencies. For far too long, agencies operated unchecked by the courts and were free to investigate companies and private individuals without due process. For example, in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court (Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency), a couple in Idaho, Mike and Chantell Sackett, in 2005, purchased two-thirds of an acre on which they planned to build a house. Shortly after they began clearing the land, the EPA issued a compliance order to stop work claiming the parcel was, in fact, a wetland and could not be developed. The EPA, without a hearing or any other sort of due process, threatened the Sacketts with fines of up to $75,000 a day if they didn t comply. In 2012, the high court ruled that, indeed, the EPA was subject to the Administrative Procedures Act and that landowners could challenge the agency in court. The EPA finally withdrew its compliance order against the Sacketts in March 2020, according to Bloomberg Law.This was an important ruling for individual liberty. But it should never have taken the Sacketts a Supreme Court-imposed order to be able to challenge the EPA. The moral of this story is that regulations without due process tie up the resources of private individuals and businesses. They stifle entrepreneurship and destroy companies. Jobs disappear. Goods and services become more expensive. Regulations come with real consequences for real people. The President understands this, which is why one of his priorities was to appoint judges who, as McGahn said, are "committed originalists and textualists," will uphold the rule of law and not legislate from the bench. Trump made the appointment of judges and justices a key issue during his 2016 campaign. He even released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees after the Republican primary. Deregulation doesn t happen without judges and justices committed to upholding constitutional principles. The President knew what had to be done and McGahn implemented the plan. To date, the Senate has confirmed 203 federal judges nominated by President Trump, including two Supreme Court justices. The shackles have been removed from the private sector. When Covid-19 hit, the President signed an executive order, designed to jumpstart the economy, directing agencies to "remove barriers to the greatest engine of economic prosperity the world has ever known: the innovation, initiative and drive of the American people."President Trump said he was going to reduce America s regulatory burden and he did it. He promised to nominate judges who would uphold our founding principle of individual liberty. He did that too. In an election season when the President s detractors are making promises and offering platitudes, we should remember that Trump delivered on his promises, not just for his party but for the American people.
We fought Covid-19 in New York City and we thought that we won.After three months of a relentless cycle of breathing tubes, ventilators, organ failures and deaths, the rhythm gradually shifted to breathing, healing, recovery and going home. We thought we had stabilized the situation. But it hasn t stopped. Now, more than 80% of my Covid patients have been discharged from the hospital. The ones that remain have mostly been in the hospital for months. We still have patients infected with the novel coronavirus coming. But they re manageable enough that we, the health care workers, can focus again on the jobs we used to do before this pandemic took off earlier this year. We are still exhausted, still recovering, but we thought we were moving forward in a smarter and more prepared way to manage another surge. Our work had mattered. The 23,000 lives we lost had mattered. And the 8.4 million people of New York City cared about those lives. New Yorkers have sacrificed a lot with businesses closed and people sheltered in place. More than a third of New York City households lost jobs, and almost half struggled with anxiety and depression. And in our hospitals, my colleagues and I fought hard for our patients lives — and for our own lives. We had figured out how to stop Covid-19. Or so we thought.After going through so much, the numbers started to climb in California, Texas, Florida and Arizona. Now we have more than 5.6 million confirmed Covid cases in the United States. We are seeing thousands of new cases and more than 1,000 deaths daily. While this gruesome and devastating situation continues, President Donald Trump claims "we have the best" mortality rate in the world. Needless to say, we don t. It s enough to take your breath away, like a sucker punch. With the spike of coronavirus cases in other states, numbers, data and scientific facts are being manipulated, treated as political opinion. In June, Vice President Mike Pence said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, "Our public health system is much stronger than it was a month ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy." This week, Pence appeared to back off somewhat from his position. In the two months since that statement, cases across the United States have more than doubled from 2.1 million to 5.6 million and we are still well below where we need to be on testing. Almost a quarter of public health laboratories are at risk of running out of supplies within a week, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories. This shows our public health system is not where it needs to be to end this pandemic.Public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization all agree that wearing masks saves lives by blocking the spread of droplets that transmit the virus. Projections estimate it could save about 70,000 lives by December 1. Yet the President has no plans to mandate masks at the White House or on federal property. Furthermore, mask mandates are drawing public lawsuits in states like Florida, Oregon, Washington and Missouri. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp filed a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over her plan to step up social distancing and mask mandates. The governor withdrew the suit earlier this month. The refusal to implement these critical measures feels like a denial of what we experienced firsthand here in New York. As if the lives that were lost here didn t matter enough. As if the lives we continue to lose don t matter enough. The parents of one of my patient asked me last month, "Is it really so bad in these other states?" It s hard to know without clear and consistent information from the leadership at federal, state and city levels. What is the truth?The truth is we are losing 1,000 lives in a day from a single cause. The truth is that we are all afraid. As a physician, I am afraid for everyone who will suffer from this virus when it should not be this way. The truth is that we know that face masks, physical distance and hand washing stop the spread of this disease — and these are all acts of love, not just for ourselves, but for each other, for people who are at greater risk, and for people with fewer resources. The truth is that these acts of love will save us. Without them, there will be more gut punches, and more lives will be lost.
Last night, Democrats offered a moving and motivational argument for their vision of America as a pluralistic and progressive society Through powerful videos, testimonials and speeches, they made the case for action to stem gun violence and climate change; bring undocumented workers out of the shadows; and strengthen the social contract with measures such as universal childcare. They welcomed a historic nominee for vice president, who touted her lineage as the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants and spoke of the ideal of racial reconciliation and John Lewis s vision of the "beloved community." They heard a fervent, powerful homily from a former president who symbolized change. Taken separately, you will find a majority of Americans are in favor of many of the ideals Democrats promoted last night. But President Donald Trump won the 2016 election by energizing a minority of voters -- most of whom are White -- who view these changes as a threat to their livelihoods and way of life. And what may seem like a humane, common sense agenda to most Americans, this week will be cast by Trump and the Republicans as nothing more than job-crushing environmental regulations; amnesty for "illegals" and open borders; an attack on police that invites urban violence and anarchy; onerous new taxation and a radical assault on the second amendment. These are the jagged fault lines of American politics: a rising number of young people, racial minorities and college-educated White voters versus those who view the cultural and social changes proudly displayed at the Democratic National Convention this week as a threat. Trump s fear of Joe Biden as an opponent is so pronounced that the President was impeached for trying to dig up dirt on him. But Biden -- a White, plain-spoken, devout Catholic from the industrial heartland -- is a culturally inconvenient target. Biden hardly looks the part of the far left radical Trump would use to rile up his base. In the primaries, Biden s history of moderation and bipartisanship was a rallying point among fellow Democratic candidates. But in a general election, this history serves as an asset, offering comfort to middle-of-the-road voters who are ready to fire Trump. That doesn t mean Trump won t try to seize on, embellish and distort the Democratic platform and Biden s programs to paint him as an aged and addled dupe who has surrendered to the left. Trump is likely to cast him as a trojan horse the Democrats will use to promote socialism, lawlessness and cultural expropriation. But Democrats have been relentless this week in presenting Biden as a decent, caring man deeply rooted in Main Street values; a resilient leader who has weathered unthinkable struggle and loss and is prepared to lead America out of one of its darkest epochs. Tonight, as he accepts the nomination of his party, his job is to dispatch Trump s attacks on his physical energy and mental acuity with a robust speech that defies caricature and speaks to the broadest swath of Americans. He needs to approach the speech as if he were already a sitting president and give Americans the confidence that better days are within our reach by laying out a clear sense of where he would lead on the virus and the economy. The battle for the presidency will mostly be one of mobilization, with each side working to get their bases out to vote. Democrats did a good job Wednesday of appealing to theirs with emotional presentations on core issues. But they have also offered reassurance this week to middle-of-the-road voters with speeches from moderate and Republican voices. This is particularly important, since the outcome in November may be decided by the final disposition of few, mostly White voters who are up for grabs in a handful of swing states. Tonight, Biden needs to keep that balance in mind as he makes his pitch to what may amount to the largest audience he will have to himself between now and November.
Why is President Donald Trump helping Russia and hurting the United States? That isn t a question that most Americans probably want to ask themselves right now, but they should.With the clock ticking toward Election Day, President Trump has inserted himself squarely into the election security threat matrix, undermining his own national security team and US democracy. By tweeting out and amplifying content officially attributed to a Russian influence operation and taking active measures against key election infrastructure, like the US Postal Service, and by failing to hold certain bad actors accountable, Trump himself is the biggest threat to a free and fair 2020 vote. There are active foreign threats facing the US election. Last month, after facing pressure, primarily from Democrats, the US intelligence community (IC) made public information regarding certain foreign election security threats. The IC issued a second statement earlier this month that specific foreign actors are targeting US elections -- they cited China, Russia, and Iran. While their statements are helpful in terms of informing the public, overall, about various threat streams, they confusingly grouped threats of very different scales and scopes -- apples and oranges -- in the same basket. Active, covert Russian influence operations are seemingly a bigger threat to Americans than public criticisms of the Trump administration from the ruling Chinese Communist Party. But the IC indicated that Russia prefers Trump to win the 2020 election, while China prefers him to lose. Trump may think it s more politically and personally expedient to focus on election interference from China and to disregard Russia s attacks. Plus it s clear he has never liked acknowledging that he is Putin s preference. Shortly after the IC s statement, US National Security Adviser Robert O Brien said on CBS that China and other countries are attacking secretary of state websites -- which sounds like an allegation that China is engaged in cyberattacks against critical election infrastructure. That s the first we ve heard about this alleged Chinese operation -- the IC statements on election security threats made no mention of any Chinese cyberattacks. While the intelligence community has indicated that unnamed adversaries "seek to compromise US election infrastructure," and says it is monitoring "malicious cyber actors," we have not seen anything to corroborate O Brien s specific accusation against China.If O Brien s allegations are true, it would be a major escalation by China that should warrant some kind of response. But we haven t heard about any planned punitive measures by the administration against the individuals and entities involved in the recently disclosed election security threats. (A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said last week that Beijing has never interfered in US elections, but government statements should be taken with more than a grain of salt.) That s a dangerous approach. With several foreign threats now public knowledge, it appears that the President is choosing to do nothing about them. Instead of taking action to counter foreign attacks on US democracy, he is playing dodgeball and failing to hold the attackers accountable. When recently asked about foreign meddling, he turned his ire on Democrats, saying it was they who were "meddling" by insisting on mail-in ballots. POTUS s failure to punish the actual attackers just empowers people like Vladimir Putin to keep attacking the US. Absent a policy response to their election interference, bad actors have no reason to stop while they re at it. But not only has Trump failed to punish certain foreign actors, he s helping them. The Intelligence Community s recent statement on election security threats said -- notably -- that Russia prefers Trump in 2020 and that Moscow is actively working to denigrate rival Joe Biden. The IC even specifically cited a player in Russia s influence operations against the United States -- Andriy Derkach. The statement said that Derkach, a Ukrainian lawmaker, "is spreading claims about corruption -- including through publicizing leaked phone calls -- to undermine former Vice President Biden s candidacy and the Democratic Party." Democrats have consistently raised concerns about Derkach s actions and work with certain Republican lawmakers.The US intelligence community could not have been clearer: Derkach is part of Russian attacks on US democracy. As President, Trump had to have had access to the underlying, highly classified intelligence that led the IC to their conclusions about Derkach, not to mention access to the underlying, highly classified intelligence about Russian election attacks more broadly. Trump s not known for spending a lot of time reading classified intelligence. But with the information on Derkach now public, there s zero chance that the President isn t aware of the US intelligence community s conclusions. Yet he helped Russia intelligence with the click of a button -- on Sunday he retweeted content that Derkach leaked, allegedly of a conversation between Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. (Poroshenko reportedly has said the audio is bogus.) Quite simply, Trump helped spread Russian disinformation, and the reason seems obvious -- it s all about winning a second term. When it comes down to it, Trump prioritizes his perceived personal needs over all of us -- the safety of our elections, our physical safety, and more. That s probably why Putin prefers him -- he s the antithesis of what a democratic leader looks like. In addition to giving certain attackers a free pass and apparently aiding and abetting Russian influence operations against us, Trump and his appointees also appear to be engaged in active measures targeting key election infrastructure -- the USPS. Trump s Postmaster General appointee Louis DeJoy will testify before Congress next week about allegations that his recent operational changes will hamper the Postal Service s ability to support voting by mail in November. And Trump s spreading of disinformation about mail-in voting amounts to influence operations against the USPS as he tries to denigrate the service s perceived capabilities to handle mailed ballots.Actions speak louder than words. It s obvious that the USPS is going to face an unprecedented burden this election cycle. A patriotic president would do everything possible to shore it up so that Americans can vote safely from their homes. Trump, however, is doing just the opposite. In fact, Trump said he opposes additional funding for the Postal Service because he doesn t want to see it used for mail in voting. Instead of giving the USPS the resources it needs to support a free and fair election, Trump is trying to undercut it. It goes without saying that a candidate confident of winning wouldn t try to stop Americans from voting. And a President who cares about his country s democracy wouldn t help the foreign actors attacking it. So as Americans tune in to the conventions and try to make sense of the election threats we re facing, they should be aware that President Trump himself is our primary source of election insecurity.
Nothing felt more real, more searing, on the first night of the surreal 2020 Democratic National Convention than the words of a grieving daughter, Kristin Urquiza, laying the blame for her father s death from coronavirus at the feet of President Donald Trump. "My dad was a healthy 65-year-old," she said sharply, "his only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life."What could matter more when choosing a president in the middle of a pandemic than a candidate s ability -- his determination -- to do everything in his power to keep people from dying? Listening to her tell the story of her father, Mark Anthony Urquiza, made concrete the sorrow behind the Covid-19 death toll that keeps climbing, even as Trump relentlessly seeks to minimize the threat and undercut the measures that save lives. The story of this pandemic is one of the themes of the convention, as it should be. In many ways, this convention could be called the "It Didn t Have to be This Way Democratic Convention." Maybe Urquiza s words touched me because I lost my father early in my life. I understand the pain, the frustration, the anger after such a crushing tragedy; I have always felt a lingering emptiness in that spot, somewhere in the solar plexus, where a daughter s special connection to her father resides. I felt Urquiza s words emanate from that place, newly wounded, still smoldering and tender. It s not time for my story, but hers -- one that too many Americans are now experiencing, and one that could drive millions to the polls to defeat the man Urquiza rightly blames for her father s death. How many people did Urquiza touch on Monday night? At least 170,000 multiplied by children, spouses, siblings, friends and co-workers. In short, the millions of Americans who have lost loved ones. And why?As she related what occurred over images of her dad smiling before he became ill, of the family gathered, undoubtedly expecting many more years together, gradually giving way to images of him ill, we heard what happened. Her father voted for Trump, trusted him and took the President at his word. He "listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said coronavirus was under control and going to disappear; that it was OK to end social distancing rules..." When restrictions were lifted in Arizona, he went to a karaoke bar with his friends. We saw a picture of her father, beaming, microphone in hand. Before long, he fell ill. We saw the wrenching image of him, hospitalized, the end approaching. He was put on a ventilator. "After five agonizing days," Urquiza said, "he died alone, in the ICU, with a nurse holding his hand." That was it. Another tragic statistic. Urquiza was one of many everyday Americans featured prominently on the first night of the DNC. Her story, and others, sought to unite Democrats while touching a chord among Republicans. It became part of a convention that aimed to portray the party as a broad coalition, with room for people from all walks of life. Tellingly, one of the first speakers on video, a farmer, said, "First of all, I d like to offer condolences to the Trump family," for the loss of Trump s brother Robert. And the invocation at the very beginning asked God to bless all Americans, Republicans, Democrats and independents. It was an effort to show Democrats in the mold of their candidate, Joe Biden: conciliatory, healing, decent, aiming to restore the country to a sense of national unity.Speeches by Republicans and Democrats, eloquent words such as those from Michelle Obama, went a long way to make that case. But Urquiza s message was visceral. This is a convention like no other. When else have we seen an in memoriam scroll of people lost only recently to such a terrible disease? More than anything, Americans are united today in grief, in suffering, in the strangeness of daily lives that would have been inconceivable until the virus struck, and made deadlier, costlier, by the current President s twisted priorities. It didn t have to be this way. Like Urquiza s dad, millions of Americans voted for Trump, trusted him to make America great. It turned to disaster. It didn t have to be this way.
It may be unfashionable to say, but national party conventions are important -- even when the parties can t convene.They are among the few nights on the election calendar when a candidate and campaign have the chance to deliver an unfiltered message directly to an audience of tens of millions of Americans. Joe Biden enters his convention with an average polling lead of 9 points, the strongest position of any challenger to an incumbent president in recent history. Yet in a deeply divided country, the race is bound to tighten. A CNN poll released Sunday puts Biden s lead at a narrower four points. The convention gives him a chance to fortify his position for the fall campaign before Trump gets his turn at the Republican Convention next week. First, while he has held a steady lead, only about a third of voters backing the former Vice President say they are doing so primarily to support him. Most say they will vote for Biden out of a desire to defeat President Trump. This reflects the fact that, despite his 50 years in politics, Biden s background isn t all that well known. People remember him as Barack Obama s Vice President. Many Americans recall the tragic death of Biden s son, Beau, which the country watched him live through. But the convention is a chance to flesh out Biden s biography and accomplishments. Biden s strengths -- namely, character decency, empathy, and experience -- should all be comparative advantages in a race against a president whose personal qualities and management style have become major liabilities, especially in the crucible of the Covid-19 crisis. Look for the Democrats to draw those contrasts. The President s chaotic stewardship during the virus itself and Trump s relentlessly divisive leadership will be a persistent theme. Biden began his race as a "Battle for the soul of America," and it is a meme you can expect to hear throughout the week.Yet while Biden leads Trump on many polling measures, there is one on which the President continues to have an advantage and that should be a concern to Biden and the Democrats. Despite the precipitous drop caused by the virus and measures to cope with it, Trump still leads on the important question of who will better handle the economy. So, you can be sure that Democrats also will use the next four nights to attack Trump as a plutocrat in populist clothing, pushing policies that have benefited the wealthy like himself, while hurting working families. In service of this argument, it s a good bet Democrats will strike a contrast between Trump s privileged life and Biden s hardscrabble, working class roots and understanding of the struggles working families face. Biden, at 77, also enters the race as the oldest candidate ever to run for President. (Trump is second at 74). As such, it is imperative for the convention and his speech on Thursday to not only draw a contrast with Trump but to paint a picture of the future that Biden envisions and his prescriptions for getting there. He will have to do that and convey a sense of energy without the advantage of the roaring crowd that would normally greet the nominee at a traditional party convention. Biden s speech instead may feel more like a fireside chat -- a challenging assignment, but also more appropriate and reassuring for a country riven by crisis. While the convention will lack the vitality of crowd interaction, the virtual format the virus requires will allow the organizers to produce two made-for-TV hours of programming each night, without the awkward intervals that the traditional, anachronistic convention provides. You can expect faster-paced programming: Shorter and fewer speeches, more video and testimonials from everyday people and musical interludes. And while there will be more moving parts, as they pull in speakers from around the country, many of the presentations will have been pre-recorded, allowing the organizers greater quality control.Democrats also have the advantage of having decided earlier to adopt a virtual format, while Republicans wasted many weeks searching for venues that would accommodate Trump s vain insistence on speaking to a large crowd of supporters. We will see next week if and how well the Republicans have caught up. One other advantage of a virtual convention is that riffs between the far left and more moderate factions with the party will be on display little this week. Bound by their shared desperation to defeat Trump, and carefully negotiated platform language, they seem committed to presenting a united front behind Biden and his newly named running-mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris. We will hear from the expected "closers," Michelle and Barack Obama, Dr. Jill Biden and, of course, Harris and Biden themselves. We will hear from some of Biden s vanquished opponents, led by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, from an apostate Republican, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and the young progressive icon, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. There will be celebrity hosts and everyday Americans, together painting a portrait of a diverse America. Format notwithstanding, the strategic goal of these conventions will be the same as ever. Each side will tell their version of where we are, where we ought to go, and why their standard-bearer is the best positioned to take us to a better place that the other side will not. And they both may be talking a lot about the same man.For Biden, the task is to fully introduce himself to the nation and offer reassurance that he is the calm, steadying, decent leader many Americans seek. For an embattled Trump, about whom many Americans already have made up their minds, next week s convention will be a lot about tearing Biden down. The race will not be won or lost in the next two weeks. But virtual or not, they will be important signposts along the way to the election this November.
The World Trade Organization (the WTO) was not long ago the ultimate command in the international trading system. However, what it is witnessing now is the dwindling of confidence in its role and posture, as well as increased doubts about its capabilities to regulate international trade relations, which only compound fears that chaos will become the alternative. The world cannot dispense with the WTO as a regulator and supervisor of international trade relations. It is well known that the organization extracts its strength from its unique judicial system, as it has a dispute settlement mechanism unparalleled in the multilateral system, which issues valid recommendations, and member states must resort to it or commit to compensation. Furthermore, its mandate as a forum for negotiation and setting international rules and regulations has given the organisation competency and proficiency that no other international organisation can subsume. Member states were contented with and committed to the rule-based international trading system as enforced by the WTO. The failure of the organisation to perform either of its two major mandates negatively affects the other and reduces its presence on the international scene.
For all of the distraction and uncertainty around this year s veepstakes, there was a certain air of inevitability around the selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as former Vice President Joe Biden s running mate, as confirmed in Wednesday s historic introduction of the full Democratic ticket. With robust credentials and solid support from the party establishment, Harris who would be the first Black woman, the first Asian American and just the fourth woman on a major US party ticket, was the odds-on favorite nearly as soon as she suspended her own campaign. And with Biden becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee at a time of unprecedented consciousness around issues of race and gender, the practical and symbolic advantages of picking a younger, nonwhite woman as his running mate were clearly magnified.Biden held his VP announcement on the third anniversary of the march in Charlottesville, the horrific parade of torch-bearing white supremacists that Biden has cited as the primary motivation for his entry into the presidential race. "For me, it was a call to action," he said in his introduction of Harris. "At that moment I knew I couldn t standby and let Donald Trump, a man who went on to say... there were very fine people on both sides, ... continue to attack everything that makes America America." But symbolism alone won t accomplish the campaign s critical goals if it wants to achieve, to quote Harris s words from Wednesday s speech, "we need more than a victory...we need a mandate." The ticket needs to energize Black voters, who will be weighing Harris pioneering status against lingering criticisms of her record as California s "top cop." It needs to connect with young voters, who have seen the social contract of their parents and grandparents implode under the establishment politics of the decades in which they ve been alive. And it needs to bridge the jagged rift between the Democratic Party s centrists and its insurgent progressive wing, itself a fragmented mosaic of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and yes, Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard supporters, encompassing factions who prioritize class-based politics and those more focused on social equity and restorative justice.That s the challenge the newly unveiled running mates have ahead of them, one that s been amplified by the magnitude of the crises our country now faces. As Biden and Harris both underscored, this is a "life changing election for our nation" — one that will "decide the future of America for a very, very long time." Harris, Biden said, was the right person to join in addressing this challenge: Smart, tough, experienced, a "proven fighter for the backbone of this country, the middle class," and ready to do the job of VP — or POTUS, if needed — on day one. He sought to present her prosecutorial history around the theme that Harris herself has returned to again and again, as a career spent fighting "for the people," echoing the phrase that Harris said time and again as San Francisco D.A.: "Kamala Harris, for the people." He also promised that she would be the sharp sword in the campaign s scabbard against Trump and Mike Pence, leveraging her background as a router of corruption and courtroom interrogator against the leaders of an administration that has repeatedly and gleefully flouted laws, standards and ethics.Yet still, in both Biden and Harris remarks, the historical significance of the moment came back again and again: "This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls that feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, but today — today just maybe they re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way as president and vice presidents," Biden said. As Harris famously said during the debate where she confronted Biden on his record regarding school busing to promote integration, "That little girl was me." This is a moment that needs to be celebrated, among our Black and Asian communities and by all Americans, for what it is — emblematic evidence of the sea change in our nation s social fabric; a defiant rejection of the racist and misogynist themes that have been woven into America s political "conventional wisdom"; a statement of hope for more and greater inclusion in the future. We ve never been closer to having a Black woman VP than now. We ve never been closer to having an Asian VP than now. The likelihood that we ll see an Asian American president in my lifetime, something I would have found difficult to imagine just a few decades ago, is higher than it has ever been. But getting there will require connecting this moment to the movements surging around it, movements that want real change, real soon. Harris, in her acceptance speech, noted that the "civil rights struggle is nothing new to Joe ... And, today, he takes his place in the ongoing story of America s march toward equality and justice as the only who has served alongside the first Black president and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate." The reality is that that struggle looks very different today than it did when President Barack Obama was elected in 2008. Today, there is a fiery hunger, as one friend on social media put it, for "transformation, not just representation." The kind of deep structural change being demanded isn t what might have sprung to mind when one imagined a Biden/Harris 2020 ticket in the earliest days of this electoral cycle. And yet, it s undoubtedly what s necessary, given the breadth and complexity of the crises this nation faces. It s encouraging that Biden, in recent weeks, has embraced rhetoric and policies that reflect the influences of the Democratic Party s progressive wing — I even joked that I was getting excited by the seeming emergence of the chimera candidate "Joelizabeth Warden." It s also promising that Harris directly referenced the passion for social change that is the legacy of her parents, immigrants from India and from Jamaica who first connected at Bay Area rallies for civil rights. Harris talked about how her parents met "as students in the streets of Oakland, shouting for this thing called justice... My parents would bring me to protests strapped tightly in my stroller. And my mother, Shyamala, raised my sister Maya and me to believe that it was up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching."The symbolism of this ticket is undeniable. Voters, especially progressive voters, will now be looking for the substance behind it — how the ticket intends to address a pandemic that, as Harris noted, is killing an American every 80 seconds; how it will reform healthcare; how it will protect women s right to choose, root out systemic racism, protect voting rights and reaffirm this nation s commitment to immigrants. As Harris acknowledged at the conclusion of her speech, "electing Joe Biden is just the start of the work ahead." We should celebrate this historic moment. And then get to work making Donald Trump history.
It s Kamala Harris, thankfully. After months of speculation and a seemingly endless cast of candidates through the revolving door, we now know what should have long ago been settled.The former Vice President and presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, has announced that his running mate will be the US senator from California. This is very good news on multiple levels. For starters -- Electability: If you want Biden elected -- and especially if you want President Donald Trump defeated at all costs -- Harris is the only viable running mate to help take Biden across the finish line. Nearly every other candidate had major baggage or alienating qualities. For example, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a favorite punching bag of Trump and his supporters, is deeply distrusted by the right, and her national approval was underwater as of May. Former Obama national security adviser Susan Rice has problems with both the far-right and the far-left for her controversial foreign policy record. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has little national name recognition and doesn t add racial diversity to Biden s ticket. Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia state representative who ran unsuccessfully for governor, is seen by some as too green. Others, too, had issues. Harris, who ran for president herself, has already been vetted. She survived the primary relatively unscathed and emerged the top candidate to hop on Biden s ticket. In June, a panel of Democratic primary voters were asked to name their preferred choice for a female running mate for Biden -- a plurality picked Harris.Though some progressives take issue with her criminal justice record, she worked hard to answer them during the primary. Her platform aligns fairly closely with Biden s, and there does not appear to be any major gaps she ll have to explain or contort to defend. Ability: Harris wants to be president. Occasionally the ambitions of a vice president can get in the way of a seamless working partnership. But in this case, her positioning of herself would be a good thing, because she very well might be president someday. Biden will turn 78 on Nov. 20, and, if he wins, it s reasonable to consider he could be succeeded at some point by his vice president. It s important to have someone who s not only ready for that role, but who has envisioned how she would do it. With Biden at the helm, he ll set the pace, but his administration -- and the nation -- can rest easy that Harris isn t just a plus-one. She s ready to go. Authenticity: With Harris, Biden has put his money where his mouth is. It s one thing to say you care about ending racism, it s another to put a woman on the ticket who will make it her priority. If he truly empowers her to do just that, to have a voice on those issues that even overpowers and outshines his own, it could go a long way toward reassuring many Americans on the left and the right, young and old, White and Black, that an older White guy is truly interested in helping to usher in a new era of racial justice.Finally, it s Harris s potential ability to get moderates, independents and even some in the center-right, to cross over and vote for Biden. On some important issues to moderates, she s resisted the urge to move to the far left. While she initially stumbled toward the right answer, she eventually got there on abolishing private health insurance, saying her health plan wouldn t go that far. She s also said she wants to reorder Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but not abolish it entirely, another issue that matters to some moderates. She s stopped short of saying we should defund the police, instead saying we should reimagine the way we allocate our funds to communities. On guns, another polarizing issue, Harris would ban imports of so-called assault weapons, but has not said the ban would extend to existing ones. Harris came out aggressively against Trump s tariffs and trade war with China, policies that a wide swath of voters, including independents, disapprove of. To be sure, there s plenty in Harris s record for staunch conservatives to be squeamish about -- she voted against a bill that would limit abortions to the first 20 weeks of pregnancy, to name just one thing. But if you re in the middle, or even center-right, and believe that Trump has to go, Harris isn t likely a bridge too far.Biden had to do the veep dance, meeting with candidates, floating some to the public, weighing the pros and cons of each. Every presidential candidate does. But in this case, it should always have been Harris. In fact, I d wager no one is as good a complement to the top of the ticket as she is -- at least since Biden was to Barack Obama. And we all know how that turned out.
I was meeting my friends at a sidewalk café in the Hamra district for a coffee when the earth shook under our feet. Someone yelled, "Earthquake!" But my friend, who d lived through the 15-year Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990, screamed, "It s an explosion!" Before I could even reply or acknowledge what had happened, there was a second explosion, even bigger than the first. As buildings crumbled and glass rained down upon us, I was paralyzed by fear.When the dust began to settle, all I could see was devastation -- bloodied people, a café turned to ash, rubble where an entire street once stood. The sirens that followed were deafening. Lebanon has been plagued by political corruption and crony capitalism for decades. And the pandemic and economic collapse only added to the already dire state of Lebanon. With growing poverty rates, inadequate basic medical care and broken infrastructure, we thought that we had already hit rock bottom and that nothing worse was possible anymore. But then the explosion happened on Aug. 4, and we descended further into hell -- a hell that only our anger may save us from. Though I was fortunate to escape the explosions without many cuts or bruises, one of my friends at the café was not so lucky. Broken glass fell on her, opening a wound in her leg that was bleeding heavily and required urgent stitching. When we realized what had happened, we ran to several nearby hospitals, hoping the doctors at one them could treat her wounds. But when we arrived at each one, we were told they were either at capacity or had been too badly damaged to take in new patients. We stopped the first taxi we could find, asking the driver to take us across the city -- hoping that we might find a hospital that could treat our friend further away from the explosion. But as we drove around in the taxi, it became clear the explosion had not damaged our neighborhood only -- it had rocked much of the city, leaving few hospitals able to help.With the traffic growing worse by the minute, we could not reach a hospital and ended up going to a relative of my injured friend who lived closer by and was a medical doctor. By the time we arrived, his home had already been converted into a field hospital. Injured neighbors were streaming in, covered in blood, and begging for help. They, too, could not get hospital care and needed urgent help. Without anesthesia and with few medical supplies available at home, he was forced to stitch wounds from his living room couch. While the investigation into the cause of the explosions is still ongoing, one thing is clear: Our government and the whole ruling political class in Lebanon are directly responsible. By allowing 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate to be stored in the Beirut port for six years, it committed its biggest and most unforgivable crime to date. Now, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab has announced the resignation of his government, less than a week after the explosion. It wasn t the first transgression of the Lebanese ruling class against its people. Since October 2019, the financial crisis started to deepen with the banks imposing an illegal and unofficial capital control on most depositors while the oligarchs had been smuggling money -- our money -- abroad. The economic collapse was coupled with a deterioration of the already weak infrastructure in the country: power blackouts, garbage piling up in the streets, water shortages, and fear of fuel and wheat shortages. Almost half of the Lebanese population fell under the poverty line and unemployment rates increased exponentially. In addition, the state had used unjustifiable violence against protesters and cracked down on journalists and activists critical of the authorities.But we were not entirely without recourse against the government. Though months of protests initially failed to yield significant political reform, we had a far more powerful weapon -- our anger. On Saturday, after four days of managing our losses collectively and supporting each other in the total absence of the state, a day of rage was announced in Beirut. Prompted by anger, thousands of protesters returned to the devastated Martyrs Square in downtown Beirut. Unlike the hopeful protests of October 2019, this time protesters were looking for revenge. Violence quickly escalated with teargas and rubber bullets being fired at protesters who were trying to reach the heavily protected house of parliament. The square transformed into a war zone with ambulances rushing in to carry out the tens of injured. Two of my friends got injured by rubber bullets: one in the shoulder, and another in the eye. As with previous crackdowns, rubber bullets targeting protesters eyes seem to be a carefully crafted tactic. Today, the political class has lost its credibility, even amongst many of its supporters. The anger needs to be channeled beyond its expression in protests and street mobilizations. And now with the resignation of the government, there is a political opportunity to be grasped. The opposition needs to rise to this moment politically and lead the transition that will not only topple the rulers, but that will also prosecute them. Without a leadership that can translate the anger in the streets into a political process, this will be, yet again, another lost opportunity. The international community also has a role to play in our recovery, and it can start by no longer recognizing corrupt and heartless leaders. It can isolate them by refusing to meet with them and refusing to channel any aid to Lebanon through them. Until there is a new, trustworthy government in place, this is imperative. Every penny that goes through the Lebanese system will help entrench them and will make our struggle against them more difficult.The international community also needs to immediately freeze all the accounts (and properties) of the Lebanese oligarchs -- politicians and bankers -- abroad. This is the wealth of the Lebanese people, and investigations are needed to return the stolen money. Lebanese politicians and their parties should be prosecuted and banned from participating in political life. Only when our leaders have been removed from office and held responsible for their years of malfeasance can we begin to restore justice and rebuild our democracy and the many institutions that are required to ensure its survival. A so-called "national unity" government that would bring them back to power with international support will be another blow to the Lebanese people and their right for a decent life. While the future remains uncertain, a catastrophe of the magnitude of the Beirut explosion should not pass without a major political transformation in the country. This is not only for the people of Lebanon, but for the belief that the word "justice" can still have a meaning on our planet.
Niedergebrannte Kirchen in Europa und Amerika, wie auch gestohlene Kirchen in der Türkei sind nur Teile eines globalen Plans, durch welchen fieberhaft versucht wird, die Welt zu islamisieren. Die Führer dieses Plans sehen sich in einem Krieg, und dieser Krieg hat keinen anderen Gegner als Jesus und Sein Volk, wo immer es ist. Jede Anstrengung die Politik zu islamisieren, strebt schlussendlich danach, die Welt zu islamisieren. Das 20. Jahrhundert brachte grundlegende ökonomische Veränderungen für manche islamische Länder mit sich. Die grossenErdölvorkommen in vielen islamischen Ländern und derzunehmende Bedarf grosser Industrieländer an dieser Art von Energie wurden begleitet von Ansätzen seitens der europäischen Länder und der USA, die Gunst der islamischen Ölländer zu gewinnen, um den Öl-Zufluss sicherzustellen. Zu Beginn des Aufkommens von Öl war die Aufgabe relativ einfach. Alles, was die Ölländer zu tun hatten, bestand darin, das Öl zu verkaufen, währenddessen die Hauptspieler in den USA und Europa die eigentliche Kontrolle über die Öl-Industrie fest in ihren Händen behielten. Diese klare Rollenverteilung hatte die Verhandlungen erleichtert. Die zunehmenden Vorkommnisse von Öl und der Wettbewerb um die Förderung von Öl führten jedoch zu einerFragmentierung der Kontrolle durch die amerikanischen Öl-Unternehmen und zur Schwächung von deren Hegemonie über das Golf-Öl. Auf der anderen Seite ermöglichte die Anhäufung von Reichtum in den Golfstaaten es den islamischen Ländern, das Öl auf unterschiedliche Weise als wirksame politische Waffe einzusetzen. Dabei ging es um die islamische Ideologie, die dieseweltweit, aber vor allem im Westen fördern und verbreiten wollten. Die Frage stellte sich, wie sie diese «heilige» Aufgabe wahrnehmen wollten.
French President Emmanuel Macron met with the leaders of the Lebanese political forces last week in the wake of the massive explosion that hit the port of Beirut. According to many sources, he told them that without reform, they would not get any further money. France is clearly frustrated by the lack of progress in Lebanon. Well before the sad day of the Beirut explosion, the crisis was deep and worsening, and total collapse seemed imminent. The Lebanese political class was unable to stop the bickering and to confront the challenges. One scholar, Maha Yahya, had showed that the power-sharing system in Lebanon was no longer working. Four of the five pillars of Lebanese society had collapsed: the financial and banking system; the tourism industry; the middle classes and the liberal atmosphere. Regarding the recent catastrophic explosion, it has emerged that many actors in Lebanon were aware of the danger, and yet they did not do anything about it apart from writing memos. The disaster, as one expert put it, was “completely avoidable”. Now everybody is trying to deflect the blame, and the political elite is looking for scapegoats. The conventional wisdom combines two elements. The first is that within the framework of the Lebanese political system, institutional arrangements and current internal balance of power it is very difficult to act and almost impossible to hold anybody accountable. The second is that this plight has been worsened by the current nature of the key players, who are old, incompetent and have no commitment to the national interest. Macron, who has taken the lead on the Lebanese issue, seems to believe that the combination of popular wrath and international pressure can force progress on reform. He claims that the explosion is a turning point in Lebanese history and that there was a “before 4 August” and that there will be an “after 4 August.” He may be right: however, it is difficult to see how to proceed. Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab is going to call for early elections. It is clear that Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea is trying to capitalise on the current unpopularity of President Michel Aoun s party and that Bahaa Al-Hariri, the brother of former prime minister Saad Al-Hariri, wants Diab s job. It is difficult to believe that these rivalries are tantamount to “reform”. The teams differ, but their ways of doing things are probably the same. Macron is right when he says that the current state of the Lebanese political system is the main explanation of the disaster. He is wrong when he says it will be easy to reform and supposes that it has neither roots nor clients willing to defend it and themselves. Another idea that has been floated is “empowering civil society and NGOs” by directly sending money to them. I am no expert on Lebanese NGOs, but I tend to believe my Lebanese friends assessment. The NGOS are the dominant power on social networks and they control the narrative. They help the international media and vice versa. But do they have “boots on the ground” and a relevant presence in the streets? Do they control instruments of power? We have the right to be skeptical about this solution. Lebanon badly needs efficient institutions, and in this country as in most others this means transparent ones. The commentators say this will mean new political foundations. I doubt that this will be possible, and in any case it will take time. Due to the present critical situation, that time is not available. The current reasoning for most policy-makers more or less looks like this: the Lebanese people want radical change. For their leaders, serious change means self-destruction. So, they will try to placate the international donors and the population with cosmetic ones. However, this will not do. There are two ways of achieving the necessary change: sweeping results in the upcoming elections and international help. Of course, nobody will send in troops to Lebanon. The US is not really interested, French and Turkish forces are already overextended, previous experience in Lebanon and elsewhere does not recommend it, and the Hizbullah militia is a formidable force and something like a real army. As a result, many experts say the only way, or at least the best option, is a mixture of incentives and calibrated “sanctions” targeting “bad” leaders. Macron has made threats of this sort. But I am still sceptical. Can you dismantle the clientelist networks in Lebanon without risking the collapse of the whole social fabric? Can you build a transparent system without dismantling these networks? Is there the time to ponder and implement appropriate policies? I may be overstating my case, but my feeling is that the Lebanese system may be impossible to reform. In any case, I do not see how reform can proceed as long as Hizbullah is not “on board”. This Shiite power-broker has no interest in weakening its allies, and it does not have an interest in building a strong political order in Lebanon unless it has a say in it. But this might be unacceptable for many donors, especially in the Gulf. It remains to be seen whether the Hizbullah mantra of “forget the West, go East,” meaning that Lebanon does not need the US and France, but that it needs China, is tactical or strategic. However, I do not think many players will be willing to handle this hot potato or to invest in a country that has such great needs and so many handicaps. The Lebanese are a great people, their middle classes are impressive, and they now have a window of opportunity for reform. But they face formidable obstacles.
On Wednesday, the Trump campaign sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates asking for an earlier match-up to be added to the fall schedule. Trump and his team seem confident that the debates will help the President, who has been flailing in the polls. They justified the request by arguing that the debates would be rendered useless if millions of Americans have the ability to vote by mail before the first face-off takes place in late September. "Move the First Debate up. A debate, to me, is a Public Service. Joe Biden and I owe it to the American People!" Trump tweeted on Thursday. How ironic that the President is suddenly concerned about public service after his numerous attacks on mail-in voting. The commission rejected the Trump campaign s argument on Thursday, saying voters could very well wait to watch one or more debates before sending in their ballots. While the commission said, "the three 90-minute debates work well to fulfill the voter education purposes," it would consider granting the request if both candidates agreed to it. To be sure, there is good reason for Biden -- and all Americans -- to be leery of the debates. As former White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart wrote, "It s a fool s errand to enter the ring with someone who can t follow the rules or the truth." Given Trump s track record with presidential debates, each encounter will likely turn into some mashup of professional wrestling, reality television and presidential politics. Biden will likely conduct himself in the way that candidates have since John F. Kennedy met Richard Nixon in 1960 -- and attempt to outline key policy positions while embodying the gravitas of a president. But his efforts will inevitably be overshadowed by the chaos standing 6 feet or more away from him. That doesn t mean the debates are not important. Americans still need the opportunity to see the presidential candidates in the intense, live setting that a debate provides. They deserve to see how the two men face challenging questions -- and how they handle the pressure of being attacked by their opponent. Being able to respond quickly with a well-delivered zinger is, for better or worse, a relevant part of being a president these days. While the debates are unlikely to provide the kind of substantive policy discussions some Americans yearn for, they remain our best opportunity to see the contrast between Trump and Biden. Even though the debates will include countless well-rehearsed one-liners, the performances provide useful insight into each leader. When candidate Trump lurked behind Hillary Clinton in 2016 or insulted his fellow Republicans during the primary debates, he revealed his true colors. That s not to say the debates can t be improved -- and the pandemic might provide an opportunity to do so. If infection rates continue to increase, it s unlikely there will be a live audience. Candidates won t be able to feed off the cheers or jeers that often make the debates feel like live sporting events. One way the commission can make sure the debates are fair and substantive is to carefully choose the moderators. It s telling that Trump s campaign has released a list of suggested moderators that includes right-wing pundits and Fox News personalities who would likely go easy on him. The commission should thoroughly vet reporters who are prepared to ask tough questions, follow up when a candidate fails to answer, and set the facts straight in the face of misleading responses. The moderators must also do their part to choose topics that cover a broad range of issues voters care about, so the American people can get a clear sense of how each candidate would handle the biggest crises facing the nation. The debates will be more important than ever this year, since the two candidates will have fewer opportunities to interact with voters on the campaign trail as a result of the pandemic. But Trump should ultimately be careful of what he wishes for. As anyone who has seen his interviews with Fox News Chris Wallace or Jonathan Swan of Axios knows, it s clear why the President prefers his campaign rallies over one-on-one Q&As -- he does not fare well when challenged. A debate would provide Biden, who has largely remained out of the spotlight, an opportunity to take Trump to task for myriad issues the President may have trouble defending. Of course, Biden is not always the smoothest on camera. He had many rough moments during the primary debates, often fumbling his words or appearing uneasy with the fast pace of the conversation. But the truth is, he doesn t have to say that much. This is a scenario where Biden can be brief and on point, and then let Trump be Trump. If the polls are any indication, Trump s interviews and coronavirus news briefings have done little to help his chance at reelection. If the nation faces a second wave of Covid-19 cases this fall, Trump s televised antics will only remind the country of his failure to adequately contain the virus, which has placed an unprecedented strain on millions of Americans. So, despite Trump s plea, the odds are that even if Biden slips up and makes a gaffe or two, another 90-minute debate won t help the President, whose track record includes four years of chaos and incompetence.
In its recent report, Moody’s affirmation of Egypt’s rating at B2 with a stable outlook came to reflect the government s economic reforms and financial measures over the past years. Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli said that the trust of Moody s Corporation in the performance of the Egyptian economy reflects the efficiency of the measures adopted by the government to promote growth rates and overcome